Donald Trump has defied fierce criticism to announce that he is using emergency powers to bypass Congress and pursue the building of a wall on the US-Mexico border.
At a combative, rambling and at times incoherent press conference in the White House, the US president insisted he had no choice but to declare a national emergency to stop illegal immigrants spreading crime and drugs.
Yet Trump admitted that he did not “need” to take the step now and was only doing so for speed. Opponents seized on the remark to accuse him of falsehoods and fearmongering for political ends, describing the move as “unlawful” and a violation of the US constitution.
Speaking in the White House rose garden, Trump noted that the National Emergencies Act of 1976 gave presidents leeway to declare an emergency and several have done so. “There’s rarely been a problem,” he said. “Nobody cares. I guess they weren’t very exciting. But nobody cares. They sign it for far less important things in some cases, in many cases.”
A list compiled by the Brennan Center says Bill Clinton declared 17 national emergencies, George W Bush 13 and Barack Obama 12, but nearly all were for crises that emerged overseas. Trump added: “We’re talking about an invasion of our country, with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”
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